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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources

 

Living in Light of Two Ages

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Tuesday
Sep272016

"Great Joy" -- Ezra 6:13-22

 The Sixth in a Series of Sermons on Ezra-Nehemiah

When the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in 587 BC and destroyed both the city and the temple, everything changed for Israel.  The surviving inhabitants were forced to endure a humiliating captivity in Babylon.  While in captivity, they found themselves under the domination of the Persian empire which defeated the Babylonians.  Cast from their land because of their disobedience to their covenant with YHWH, those Jews who returned to Jerusalem in 538 to rebuild their temple find themselves facing a new reality.  The land which they once ruled, is now part of the Persian empire, with a well-established system of Satraps and local governors in place.  Although the Persian king, Cyrus, had decreed to free the Jews from their captivity and return them to Jerusalem to rebuild both the city and temple, the Jews were no longer free to self-govern–they are accountable to their Persian landlords.  To add insult to injury, the returning exiles must live adjacent to the so-called “people of the land”–a mixture of Canaanites, apostate Jews, and transplanted Assyrians.  Israel’s neighbors will do everything in their power to disrupt whatever progress the Jews make in rebuilding their city and their temple.  Through his prophets, God promised his people that they would return to their land, rebuild Jerusalem, and their temple.  If God is to keep his covenant promise to his people and restore his temple, he must do so through a small remnant of Jewish exiles now returned home, and by demonstrating his sovereign power over the Persian king (and his successors), and this despite sustained opposition from the people of the land.  Everything changed for Israel in 587 BC.

As we continue our series on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah we come to Ezra 6, the first half of which recounts the official response from the Persian king Darius (Cyrus’ successor) to a letter sent to the Persian royal court by the local governor, Tattenai, requesting a search of the state archives to see if the Jews were telling the truth–that they had returned to the land upon the decree of Cyrus, who also decreed to fund the rebuilding of both the city and the temple.  The second half of Ezra 6 (vv. 13–22) describes how work on the temple–which came to a halt in 520–got underway again, with the second temple finally completed in 516 BC, during the sixth year of the reign of Darius.  

The completion of the rebuilt temple marks a major turning point not only in the Book of Ezra, but also in the history of Israel.  Throughout the first six chapters of this book, Ezra is recounting events which occur nearly sixty years before his own return to Jerusalem in 458 BC to help ensure that now that the temple has been rebuilt, Ezra’s people, the Jews, continue the purposes for which God has called them–to be his covenant people and a light to the Gentiles–and that the Israelites living after the exile not repeat the sins of their forefathers which led to them being cast from the land of promise (Canaan) in the first place. A rebuilt temple not only ties the Jews to Israel’s previous history, the construction of a so-called “second temple,” opens a new future to the Jewish people.  Ezra and Nehemiah will play a role in this.   

For us, as readers and students of this book, the rebuilding of the temple brings to an end the first twenty-one years of Israel’s history after the people are back in the land (after returning from Babylon).  This chapter also brings to a close the Ezra’s account of those years when Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Joshua) led the people in rebuilding, preparing us for the accounts of Ezra (from chapter 7 to the end) and the Book of Nehemiah.  To quote one writer, Erza chapter 7 and the Book of Nehemiah are “a lifetime away” from the events of Ezra chapters 1-6.  As just mentioned, Ezra arrives upon the scene in 458, some sixty years and nearly two generations after the events took place which he has been recounting associated with the exiles returning home and rebuilding their temple.

To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here

Monday
Sep262016

This Week at Christ Reformed Church (September 26-October 2)

Sunday Morning, October 2.  As we continue our series on Philippians, we come to Paul's discussion of righteousness through faith in Christ alone (Philippians 3:1-11).  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Note:  Our New Members class is on-going @ 9:00 a.m.  You are welcome to join us.

Sunday Afternoon:  We continue our study of the Heidelberg Catechism and come to the topic of Jesus' descent into Hell (Lord's Day 16 Q & A 40-44).  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study, September 28:   We have returned to our study of 2 Thessalonians.  We are dealing with Paul's treatment of Christ's second advent (chapter 1).  We gather at 7:00 p.m. for prayer, and study begins at 7:30.

Academy, Friday, September 30:  We return to our study of Mike Horton's theology text, The Christian Faith:  A Theology for Pilgrims on the Way.  We'll pick up where we left off last time with chapter 10 (p. 324) and the doctrine of creation.  The discussion/lecture begins at 7:30 p.m.

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Info), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).

Sunday
Sep252016

“It Is God Who Works In You” -- Philippians 2:12-30

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon, the fifth in a series of sermons on Philippians

Click Here

 

Sunday
Sep252016

This Week's White Horse Inn (Updated Website)

Heaven According to Scripture

Is the ultimate goal for Christians all about going to heaven when we die? And what is heaven anyway? Do our souls float on clouds for all eternity? Do we become angels? On this program the hosts continue to contrast contemporary views of the afterlife with the biblical portrait of the new heavens and the new earth.

Click Here

Tuesday
Sep202016

"They Began to Rebuild the House of the Lord" -- Ezra 5:1-17

The Fifth in a Series of Sermons on Ezra-Nehemiah

The Jews in Jerusalem are discouraged.  Hauled-off into captivity to the city of Babylon some seventy years earlier, only to have their Babylonian captors defeated by the Persians, the Persian king, Cyrus, then ordered their resettlement back in their original homeland, even giving them the funding to rebuild their temple, and their capital city of Jerusalem.  Absent from the area around Jerusalem for these seventy-years, and with the city and the temple desolate, Israel’s neighbors to the north are relieved.  The Jews, who were both a religious and military power, are no longer a threat.  But these same neighbors are quite disconcerted to hear that the Jews have returned to their land to rebuild, with both the funding and the blessing of the Persian king.  Upon their return, the Jews begin rebuilding the altar and foundation of their temple, they have begun offering sacrifices to YHWH, and celebrating the feasts required by the law of Moses.  At first, their neighbors to the north–the people of the land–offer to help.  When the leaders of the now-returned exiles, Jeshua (Joshua) and Zerubbabel, see through their ruse, and reject their offer, the people of the land begin an eighty-year long period of hassling the Jews, threatening them, bribing local officials, and doing everything in their power to stop the Jews from rebuilding.  As a consequence, the people of Israel have become discouraged, and work on the temple has come to a halt.  But God will send two prophets to encourage his people, and remind them of his promise that the temple will be rebuilt, and the walls of the city restored.  Meanwhile, the people of the land, are determine to stop the Jews, and a local official, perhaps unknowingly, will take up their cause.  

We left off last time in 520 BC, when the work of rebuilding the temple ceased.  In the last verse of chapter 4 (v. 24), Ezra told us that “then [i.e., in 520 BC] the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”   Cyrus’ decree, which returned the Jews to the land and funded the temple had been issued in 538.  There had been two years of good progress, until things slowed down, and the work finally stopped in 536.  The rebuilding of the temple stopped because of reasons recounted by Ezra in verses 4-5 of chapter 4. “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”  After the foundation of the temple was laid and the alter rebuilt in 536 BC–a time of great joy–the Israelites grew very discouraged.  According to Ezra, it was about this time that Israel’s neighbors to the north began their non-stop campaign of harassment, bribery, as well as inciting political intrigue among their Persian landlords, putting great pressure on the Jews to stop rebuilding both the temple and the city of Jerusalem.  The Jews grew discouraged and the work ceased.

As we saw last time, the Jews became discouraged because of two related factors.  First, as for Israel’s neighbors to the north–the people of the land–they are troubled by the rebuilding of the temple, in so far as such a temple was dedicated exclusively to YHWH according to the dictates of the law of Moses.  The people of the land who hassle the Israelites were a mix of Canaanite locals, apostate Jews who remained behind during the time of captivity, as well as Assyrian exiles transplanted to Samaria from areas captured by the Babylonians.  Now the entire region was under Persian political and military jurisdiction.

To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here

Monday
Sep192016

This Week at Christ Reformed Church (September 19-25)

Sunday Morning, September 25.  We have come to Paul's discussion of God working in us according to his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-30).  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Note:  Our New Members class is on-going @ 9:00 a.m.  You are welcome to join us.

Sunday Afternoon:  We continue our study of the Heidelberg Catechism and come to the topic of our Lord's burial (Lord's Day 16 Q & A 40-44).  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study, September 21:   We have returned to our study of 2 Thessalonians.  We are dealing with Paul's treatment of Christ's second advent (chapter 1).  We gather at 7:00 p.m. for prayer, and study begins at 7:30.

Academy:  Resumes on Friday, September 30, @ 7:30 p.m., when we return to our study of Mike Horton's theology text, The Christian Faith:  A Theology for Pilgrims on the Way.  We'll pick up where we left off last time with chapter 10 (p. 324) and the doctrine of creation.

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Info), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).

Sunday
Sep182016

"The Name Above Every Name" -- Philippians 2:1-11

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon on the Carmen Christi (the Christ Hymn):

Click Here

Sunday
Sep182016

This Week's White Horse Inn (Updated Website)

Heaven in Pop Culture

As we have seen in the past two programs, there appears to be a lot of confusion about heaven and the afterlife, yet this does not appear to be limited to the world outside of the church. As we’ll see in this program, there’s a lot of confusion even inside the church about the true nature of heaven. On this program the hosts will contrast contemporary misunderstandings with the biblical teaching about our ultimate resurrection hope.

Click Here

Tuesday
Sep132016

"We Alone Will Build to the Lord" -- Ezra 4:1-24

The Fourth in a Series of Sermons on Ezra-Nehemiah

We have all heard stories in the news about someone who desires to build a massive home, gets all of the necessary permits, and the starts construction.  The neighbors, who have smiled and waved everyday for years, seem to be perfectly okay with the project.  They never said a word when the matter came before the city council and a public hearing.  But once the building got underway and it became apparent that the home’s second story would block the neighbor’s view, suddenly a lawsuit is filed, an injunction issued, and building stops, until months or even years later when the matter is finally resolved.  We see a similar episode in our text, as the Israelites, who have the permission and blessing of the Persian king to rebuild their temple, now discover that their neighbors to the north–who even offer to help the Israelites with the work–are actually conspiring to stop the rebuilding project dead in its tracks.  Their efforts reach all the way to the Persian royal court and Ezra’s initial reports of progress give way, instead, to an apparent end to efforts to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple.
 
As we continue our series on the books of Ezra-Nehemiah, we move into Ezra 4, where we learn that the initial progress in rebuilding the temple, about which we read last time, has now come to a sudden and unforeseen halt.  Israel’s adversaries lobby for a work stoppage and succeed.  Last time, we read in chapter 3 of the how the altar was rebuilt at the temple site, and the daily sacrifices were re-instituted.  Under the leadership of Jeshua and Zerubbabel, once again the Israelites celebrate their historic feasts according to the law of Moses.  These feasts played a significant role in Israel’s history and, in part, established their identity as the people of YHWH.  

Just as Israel’s history took an unexpected turn when the Israelites were set free from their Babylonian captivity by Cyrus in 538 BC, then returned home and began the work of rebuilding their city and their temple, Israel’s circumstances change unexpected yet again.  The work on the temple comes a grinding halt.  In fact, everything of which we read from here on in both books of Ezra and Nehemiah will be framed in terms of an eighty year conflict instigated by Israel’s neighbors, lasting until Ezra himself appears on the scene in 458.  In chapter 4:1-5, 24, Ezra informs us that effort to rebuild the city and the temple will face strong opposition until the temple is finally completed about 516 BC.  In verses 6-23, Ezra jumps ahead in time to give background to the reader regarding the numerous complaints about Israel which came before the Persian court, even after the temple was completed.  Motivated by unbelief, and characterized by political intrigue among the local population and the Persian kings, the entire account of the struggle to rebuild the temple and the city–especially the city’s walls–must be seen in light of the backdrop of Satan’s continual efforts to thwart the purposes of God as depicted as a war in heaven in Revelation 12:1-12, our New Testament lesson.

To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here

Monday
Sep122016

This Week at Christ Reformed Church (September 12-18)

Sunday Morning, September 18.  As we continue our series on Philippians, we come to the Carmen Christi (the "Christ hymn") of Philpippians 2:1-12.  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon:  We move into Lord's Day 16 of the Heidelberg Catechism and will be discussing our Lord's suffering, death, and burial (Lord's Day 16 Q & A 40-44).  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study, September 14:  Our Bible study resumes with an exposition of 2 Thessalonians.  If you plan on attending, please read the entire epistle.  We gather at 7:00 p.m. for prayer, and study begins at 7:30.

Academy:  Resumes on Friday, September 30, @ 7:30 p.m., when we return to our study of Mike Horton's theology text, The Christian Faith:  A Theology for Pilgrims on the Way.  We'll pick up where we left off last time with chapter 10 (p. 324) and the doctrine of creation.

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Info), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).